“Working long hours and continuously for months, one wave after another, definitely did take a toll on my life. In February 2021, after the second covid wave, I felt fatigued. There was this constant tiredness despite having a proper sleep the night before.“
I worked as an Anaesthetic Registrar during the first and second covid wave in the UK. As part of the specialist training, I rotated between intensive care and anaesthetics. First wave got me accompanying patients with ventilators for intra-hospital transfers. Being surrounded by seriously ill Covid- stricken patients, I adhered to the protocol after leaving work whereby I would put my scrubs into a bin bag, have my shower and immediately transfer the clothes into the washing machine. Nonetheless, as we understood the disease more, I wasn’t as strict with the protocol but made a point to take all the precautions not to pass the infection to my 2 young children and wife at home.
Having been trained in a specialty that requires procedures such as intubation, inserting central lines and changing ventilator settings on a daily basis, being on an intensive care unit caring for covid-19 patients did not seem to deviate much from my daily tasks. Nonetheless, communicating with families of these patients proved to be a challenge at some point. Families weren’t allowed to visit their unwell family members, hence at times they were rarely able to comprehend or visualise the state their relatives were in. They solely relied on us, the medical professionals, to get an update of their family members. Even then, we were relaying the information to them via telephone which meant all those communication skills that we have been taught were not necessarily being utilised as they should have been. This was a deviation from the non-pandemic era. Breaking bad news was mostly if not all the time done face-to-face in a quiet room which allowed the families to process the information given bit by bit and have plenty of time to ask questions about their deteriorating relatives. They also had the opportunity to visit their relatives on a daily basis which meant whatever we told them and what they saw correlated therefore it was a little easier to accept the state their relatives were in. But I guess, the media helped these families understand what could have possibly happened to their family members with overnight deterioration or as a process of the deadly virus (at that point!). The families were very understanding, accepting the fate of their loved ones, and in fact thanked us for caring for them when they couldn’t. Things did improve after the second wave, families were allowed to visit the patients and spend some time with them although some restrictions did apply.
Working long hours and continuously for months, one wave after another, definitely did take a toll on my life. In February 2021, after the second covid wave, I felt fatigued. There was this constant tiredness despite having a proper sleep the night before. It went on for a couple of months. Perhaps this was some form of burnout, something that I experienced for the first time in my life. I was lucky it did not affect my job and I was still able to fulfil my role as a doctor, husband and a father.
As someone who is really good at compartmentalising my life; I am a very task focussed person and I do not dwell on the past for long, I was surprised to have experienced this. Nonetheless, I had a good support system comprising of my friends and family who I could always talk to and distract myself with to feel better. The burnout subsided by itself as the covid rules were eased and just like everyone else, I was back to work doing my usual non-covid job as well as going out with friends and family. Currently, as the media has highlighted, we are facing a major backlog of elective surgeries to complete, but this pressure due to backlog feels much better than working under pressure during the Covid waves whereby we were understaffed and full of uncertainties.
Looking back, it wasn’t easy during the first couple of waves of Covid-19, but I was grateful to be out there using my set of skills to benefit the people.